Auburn downs Bradley, makes Cancun Challenge final
CANCUN, Mexico - What's the best way to cure early season shooting woes? For No. 13 Auburn, it was a trip to Cancun, Mexico.
Playing in the first round of the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday night, the Tigers started red hot from the field and shot a season best 56 percent (31-55) to cruise past Bradley 85-64 and advance to Wednesday night's championship game.
"I thought we shot it well," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. "I thought most of it was in rhythm. When we ran offense and we got the right spacing, we got good looks. It's good to see us shoot the ball in rhythm, and it was good to see us get really good looks."
The Tigers also shot season bests from beyond the arc, making 8 of 17 attempts (47.1%), and from the charity stripe where they finished 15 of 20 (75.0%).
Five players scored in double figures for Auburn who never trailed in the game.
Johni Broome and Wendell Green Jr. each scored a team high 14 points. Broome, who got the start after sitting out last Friday's contest due to injury, scored the game's first basket. He also led the Tigers with nine rebounds and three blocks on the night.
"It was good to be back on the court with my brothers," Broome said. "I got off to a fast start. My teammates put me in a position to make plays, and that's what I did."
Scoreless for the first 16 minutes of the game, Green picked a perfect time to make his first shot with a step-back 3-pointer from the top of the key to end a 7-0 Bradley run. The junior point guard then beat the buzzer before halftime with a one-handed layup to give the Tigers a 45-32 advantage at the break.
It was the most points Auburn has scored in the first half this season.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 12-2 lead thanks in large part to senior Jaylin Williams who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers from nearly the same spot in the opening four minutes. Williams scored 10 of his 11 points in the first half and has now scored in double figures in each of the last two games after posting 14 points last Friday night.
The second unit kept the pressure on as K.D. Johnson and Allen Flanigan scored 13 and 12 points respectively off the bench for the Tigers. Flanigan connected on a pair of 3-pointers and had the highlight of the night when he grabbed Chance Westry's pass and threw it down with two hands for a thunderous alley-oop dunk in the second half.
Westy and fellow freshman Yohan Traore added five points apiece off the bench, and Dylan Cardwell continued his strong play with six points and eight rebounds.
"Every day we come to practice, our motto is strength in numbers," Broome said. "Our 11 is better than their seven or eight. We'll play 10, 11, some nights 12. So, just being able to count on the guy next to you is very important."
- Auburn went with the starting five of Wendell Green Jr., Zep Jasper, Chris Moore, Jaylin Williams and Johni Broome (4-0). Broome returned to the lineup after being sidelined with a bone bruise versus Texas Southern on Nov. 18.
- With the win, Auburn improves to 3-0 in the all-time series versus Bradley. Both teams last met in 1999.
- Auburn is now 4-1 all-time in Cancun Challenge games. The Tigers previously traveled to Cancun in 2016.
- Back-to-back double-figure games for Jaylin Williams. He ended the night with 11 points versus Bradley. He had a game-high tying 14 points against Texas Southern on Nov. 18. It was the 24th double-digit game of his career.
- >> For the first time this season, the Tigers had five players score in double figures including a near double-double performance from 14 points and nine points from Broome. It was the first time to have five players in double digits, since a win over Alabama on Feb. 1, 2022.
- The Tigers scored a season-high 45 points in the first half of play versus Bradley. They also led by 13 at halftime, which tied a 13-point lead against Winthrop on Nov. 15.
- Auburn drained eight 3-pointers in the ballgame - one shy of its season high (9) versus Winthrop.
- The Tigers shot season bests from the field (56.4%), beyond the arc (47.1%) and behind the free throw line (75%).
Auburn will play the winner of Northwestern and Liberty in the championship game of the Cancun Challenge on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.